With a Nickel to His Name

Leaving his lonely Indiana home, Keaton’s simply named “Friendless” sells all that he owns. He heads to New York, and is trampled – literally – by big city living. Then he heads to open plains out west, where he’s trampled again.

Keaton didn’t often deviate from his movie character, someone who begins feeble and emasculated before figuring out how to be a hero. So it is in Go West. What matters is how Keaton (or Friendless in this case) succeeds. Here in Go West, he can’t use a rope, his gun is too small for the holster, and he empathizes with a cow more than people.

Using his typical style, Go West follows the Keaton pattern

It’s not clear at the outset how Friendless survived to this point in his life, lacking any notable skills, money, or job. Over time, Go West shows how this oddball managed to squeeze his way into society: he’s adaptable. Gun too tiny? Tie it to a small thread so it no longer gets stuck in the holster. Can’t rope a steer at a distance? Just walk up to it. Cows running loose from their pen? Wave a red flag; they’ll come running.

More than spectacle, the finale is a culmination. Friendless leads hundreds of steer through San Francisco’s streets, generally oblivious to why everyone runs in panic. Bulls-in-china-shops mayhem, yet utter placidity from Friendless because this became his life now. It’s unintentional revenge against the New Yorkers who ran him off the sidewalk in the opening act, and comically clever visual to show the dichotomy between pampered cities and dirty farmlands.

Using his typical style, Go West follows the Keaton pattern, putting his character in a situation, running with it, and the jettisoning when it’s reached a crescendo. That’s the Keaton mastery, knowing when to quit. Unsure of how to milk a cow, Keaton drops a bucket under its utter and waits. In multiple forms, the gag keeps working. Keaton stands, he sits, he moves the stool (as if the steer will use it), and finally is called away into the next gag. Every possibility is explored, and all of them hilarious.

Unquestionably it’s sketch comedy approach, but Go West is always in-tune, making sure to tell a story and develop this man from imbecile to pro. Much as means to care for Friendless, there’s the cow too, always centered on this man, following him like a lost puppy. It’s genius, but no surprise, since Keaton was too.

Video

Given what still exists of Go West – and it’s not much – this master is derived from multiple sources. As such, variances sticks out. The opening reels appear heavily worn. It’s as if they were done with messy upscaling, leaving extraneous edges and turning imagery fuzzy overall. Then comes the first Brown Eyes segment and Go West looks gloriously pure. Minimal damage, great resolution, natural grain, and rich detail. Seeing the thin fishing line used to keep the cattle in their spots is common now. Another dip happens (and continues after) the train robbery.

On the brighter side (literally), whites do clip a bit. That’s likely more on the source materials than the transfer; those details faded over time. Remaining gray scale is nicely preserved, creating depth. Shadows reach necessary depth, giving Go West life in this HD era.

Sharing disc space with the shorter College, minimal concern arises over the encoding. Compression stays away, keeping grain filmic. There’s no loss of detail from the Blu-ray itself.

Audio

New scoring exhibits no problems in DTS-HD. It’s not inherently challenging in range either. Stereos split to appreciate the instrumentation. Nothing exciting, but nothing is expected either.

Extras

Along with College, Cohen finds a one hour recording where Keaton pitches a script idea. The quality is understandably low and at times difficult to understand, but at least this exists. A re-release trailer for each movie on the disc come next, with Hal Roach’s 1923 chimp-led Go West short as the finale.

Go West
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
4

Movie

A man and his cow, on a journey to find themselves. To think Go West makes that hilarious says much of Buster Keaton’s mastery.

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The 15 unaltered images below represent the Blu-ray. For an additional 25 Go West screenshots, early access to all screens (plus the 120,000+ already in our library), 120 exclusive 4K UHD reviews, and more, subscribe on Patreon.